As I walked into the classroom for my first lesson in a Mortal school I could feel my heart pounding in my chest and I tried to steady my breathing. I was already feeling panicky just being near so many unknown people, and the low ceilings and grey walls were making me feel trapped. If I had to go to school, I wanted it to be as quick and painless as possible. Keep your head down and don't attract attention to yourself. Just sit down, get the work done and then you can go home. But it wasn't really home. It was Uncle M's ridiculously huge house. Not our comfy little cottage in the middle of nowhere with the raspberries in the back garden.
"Excuse me?" I said quietly. The teacher, a man in his late twenties with dark hair and brown eyes, hidden behind geeky square glasses, looked up and smiled kindly at me. I instantly warmed to him.
"You must be, um, Ice-lynn?"
I sighed inside, but I just said "It's pronounced Ash-lynn. Don't worry, happens all the time." The teacher, Mr Spiro, smiled at me again, and I managed a small smile back.
When he told me where I could sit I instantly quailed at the thought of sitting next to the stunning, athletic-looking blonde. I looked at the other girl he'd gestured to, Evangeline, and started making my way towards her, not even considering sitting next to a guy. But as I walked past him I couldn't help noticing his deep brown eyes, so much like my father's but so, so different, and his thick, effortless light brown hair flopping against his tanned forehead. He was so beautiful. And in that second, I would have done anything those gorgeous eyes told me to.
"Hey, I'm Eva Holden," said the girl I was told to sit next to, breaking me out of my trance. I shook my head slightly and smiled at her. She had short, layered golden brown hair and big hazel eyes. Her caramel-coloured face was pretty without being particularly remarkable, but she looked friendly; the kind of person you wanted to show you around on your first day. I sat down next to her.
"Aislinn Orviatti," I replied quietly.
"Where are you from?" asked Eva. "And how come you moved to this dump? I mean, the houses are small and ridiculously expensive, it's always raining, and there's a creepy old man who lives in the big mansion on the hill."
"Yeah, how did you know?"
"He's my grandfather."
"Oh, my god, I am so sorry, I didn't mean any disrespect, please don't hate me," babbled Eva, her eyes wide. "What's it like, anyway? The house?"
"It's not very interesting really," I replied quickly. Although she was being friendly enough I still didn't feel very comfortable around a Mortal, especially not one who could say so many words in so little time.
"Where did you say you were from?"
"I didn't. But I'm from London, we moved here after my mother-" How much do I really want her to know about us? "To see my grandfather more."
"Okay..." said Eva, raising her eyebrows. I could tell she knew I'd stopped myself from saying something, but she didn't ask. Instead she said, "So, what do you think of the place so far?"
"It's alright," I replied, relieved for the change of subject. "Doesn't seem like that much of a dump."
"That's because you've come at the best part of the year," said Eva, laughing. "You wait until winter when you're freezing your socks off and every item of clothing you own is soaked. Then you'll know what I mean."
"Eva, new girl, shut up," said Mr Spiro.
"Oops," muttered Eva.
At the end of the lesson I was panicking about where to go and who I would be with but when I checked my timetable I had Drama and Eva was in my class, so we walked to the studio together. During the lesson I met a couple of her friends, Dexter and Nate and they didn't ask any awkward questions, which I was thankful for.
Even though he wasn't even in the class I still couldn't get that guy Gabriel out of my head, and I found myself getting really easily distracted. Nate and Dexter started calling me Dreamgirl because I kept completely zoning out and staring at nothing, but I found that I actually didn't mind that much. I started thinking that maybe if I stayed with them, Mortal school might not be so bad.
At lunch I went to the canteen with Eva and saw that the food wasn't actually that bad. I got a bowl of pasta, some orange juice and a cookie, and as I was lining up I realised Gabriel was standing right in front of me. He had his back to me, talking to one of his friends, and I couldn't help staring at him. The line started moving and someone shoved into me from behind. I stumbled forwards and almost fell over. Gabriel grabbed my arm to steady me, and when I looked up I saw that he was smiling. Oh my dear Christ my heart is melting.
"Sorry," I mumbled, looking down at my food.
"Hey, don't worry about it," he replied. "It's not your fault, it's that jackass." He pointed to the guy behind me, a footballery type with a perpetual sneer and really thick eyebrows.
"What you staring at, Gabby?" he demanded. "Trying to figure out how to do your hair to get your girlfriend back?"
"Oh fuck off Chase," replied Gabriel, turning his back and rolling his eyes. Chase slapped me on the ass as he pushed past us and paid for his food and I squeaked slightly. "In what universe do you think it's okay for you to touch her without her permission like that? Dick."
"Ooooh, what you gonna do Gabby? Hit me with your man purse? Or maybe you'll smoulder me to death with your 'beautiful eyes'?" Chase sniggered and gave Gabriel the finger before swaggering off to sit on a table with a bunch of similar looking sporty types.
"Don't worry about him, he's just a cock," said Gabriel quietly.
"You didn't need to do that," I told him as we got to the till.
"Yes I did. He can't do that to people."
I reached into my pocket for my purse. "Oh crap, my purse is in my bag. Can I leave my tray here for a second to go get it?" I asked the dinner lady at the till. She nodded.
"Oh hey don't worry about it, I'll pay for it," said Gabriel, handing the dinner lady a ten pound note. She gave him the change and he grabbed his tray and mine. "Where are you sitting?"
"Over there," I replied, pointing to where Nate and Dexter were waiting with a couple of their other friends. Gabriel took my tray over and put it down on the table for me, then grinned at me again.
"I'm Gabriel, by the way," he said.
"Aislinn," I replied, smiling at him as he turned and went to sit with his friends.
"Ooooh, Gabe has his eye on the new girl," said Nate, raising one eyebrow.
"No he doesn't!" I exclaimed, slapping him lightly on the arm. I could feel my face heating up and quickly looked down at my food.
"Ash is going red! She likes him too!"
"No I don't," I lied. "I've only just met the guy. And anyway, that guy Chase says he has a girlfriend."
"Had a girlfriend. Past tense," said Nate. "That ended this morning when he found out Jen had been fucking Chase."
"He was dating her?"
"Oh yeah, they were quite the couple," said Dexter. "He was always spending money on her, she was always blathering on about her hair. He was always doing cute, romantic things for her, she was always blathering on about her shoes. It was a match made in heaven." He rolled his eyes. "Personally though, I don't care about all the romance stuff, Jen is hot."
"Oh shut up Dex, we all know you're sweet on Liv," said Nate. "Honestly, this boy is impossible."